First Asian American Reporter for The New York Times
Sheryl has also had a successful career in the business industry, having served as a consultant to several major companies and as a business executive for The New York Times, where she covered a wide range of topics such as global energy, markets, industries and technology. She was also the very first Asian American reporter that was hired at the Times.
Meeting Nicholas Kristof at Harvard
Sheryl was born as a third generation Chinese American in 1959. Her grandparents were immigrants who arrived in the United States during the early years of the nineteenth century to avoid persecution in China and to find a better life overseas.
Growing up in the upper west side of Manhattan in New York City, Sheryl was exposed to a very fast-paced life. Her father was a part-time contributor to a local paper, and Sheryl would often sit with him when he was typing his articles. This birthed an interest in Sheryl, which would later on inspire her to enter journalism.
As a young child, Sheryl was already quite exceptional compared to her classmates. She was very attentive and often excelled in class, which greatly impressed her professors. After graduating from high school, Sheryl entered Cornell University to study European History and graduated with high remarks in 1981, earning her bachelor degree.
Sheryl then applied at the Bankers Trust Company where she was accepted as an international loan officer, handling accounts for various clients overseas. She stayed at this post for the next three years. While working, she also entered Harvard Business School and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to further pursue her studies, earning her a master’s degree in business administration and political administration, respectively.
During her time in Harvard, she met Nicholas Kristof, another budding reporter. Sheryl and Nicholas developed a close relationship with each other, with Nicholas often taking Sheryl out on dates.
After graduating, Sheryl was immediately accepted at The Wall Street Journal where she worked as a correspondent for the daily paper. Aside from the WSJ, Sheryl also contributed to several other publications, which helped start her career in the journalism industry. In 1988, Sheryl married her fellow reporter Nicholas Kristof.
A year later, Sheryl was included in the staff of the New York Times, the first ever Asian American to have joined the ranks of this famous company. She was sent to Beijing to work as a correspondent along with her husband.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn Wins Pulitzer Prize
While staying at Beijing, Sheryl and Nicholas was able to witness and report the Tiananmen Square protests, which earned them a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, the first ever to be received by a married couple for that category. Aside from receiving a Pulitzer, Sheryl also received a George Polk Award and an Overseas Press Club Award for her efforts in bringing the story in China worldwide.
In interviews made with Sheryl years later, she recalled how it was pure courage that allowed her and Nicholas to report on the infamous massacre that occurred in the Tiananmen Square. Hours after martial law was declared, military police were everywhere and several journalists were being arrested or threatened. Nicholas and Sheryl were fortunate to have gotten out of the country safe and well, and in spite of the threats they received for revealing the incident to the public, they still continued to show the report, which earned them the respect and sympathy of the international community.
After returning to America in the 1994, Sheryl became a private wealth advisor to Goldman Sachs, a famous multinational investment firm in the United States. Her work with the company impressed the board of directors that they decided immediately to appoint her as a vice president in Goldman Sachs’ investment management division, just after a few months.
She left her work only so she could write her first book, titled “China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power”, which she co-authored with her husband. In the book, Sheryl and Nicholas related their experiences while staying in China between 1988 and 1993, talking about issues that were prevalent in the country at that time, such as poverty, corruption, religion, sex and the Communist party’s future.
Upon the release of their book, it instantly became a worldwide bestseller, with critics around the world acclaiming Sheryl and Nicholas for their courageous efforts in revealing the problems that China was facing.
For the next decade, Sheryl continued to focus on her journalism career, constantly participating in providing the public clear and accurate news. She also worked with several large companies as an advisor, which allowed her to increase her circle of contacts and friends.
Her fame also increased after being appointed as an anchor in one of the Times’ first evening news headlines program, as well as being made a foreign correspondent for the Tokyo and Beijing branches of the Times. Her work here included her writing about the economic, political, social and financial state of the countries and their neighbours.
Her work as a foreign correspondent inspired her and Nicholas to write their second book titled “Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia”, which made a non-fiction study of the contemporary Asia and the challenges that modernization brings to the region. The book also became a success both critically and commercially, and was claimed by some critics to be among the best books that discussed about the current issues that Asia is facing.
Sheryl’s third book, which she co-authored with her husband, was titled “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” was centered around the issues of sex trafficking, violence, maternal mortality and girls’ education, as well as the fight to substantially reduce or eliminate these problems that are among the greatest challenges of our present era.
The book, released in 2009, garnered an amazing number of praises from literary critics around the world. In a matter of a few weeks, it instantly became one of the top bestsellers in the international market. Carolyn See, a critic from the Washington Post wrote regarding the book:
“Half the Sky' is a call to arms, a call for help, a call for contributions, but also a call for volunteers. It asks us to open our eyes to this enormous humanitarian issue. It does so with exquisitely crafted prose and sensationally interesting material....I really do think this is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed.”
Half the Sky, as the book is more commonly known, spawned a movement that helped numerous women around the world fight for their rights and improve their lives.
That same year, Sheryl and her husband Nicholas received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. This honoured their efforts in journalism, in tackling various issues that the world is currently facing, especially in China, and making the public aware of how these issues are affecting each and everyone in a smaller scale.
The Colbert Report Appearances and Other TV Shows
Sheryl has also appeared in numerous television shows such as Charlie Rose, NPR and the Colbert Report, discussing about global affairs and offering methods that can be used to face the challenges that people are facing today.
In 2011, Sheryl was honoured to become a senior lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs of Yale University. The same year, she was listed as one of the one hundred fifty women who shook the world by Newsweek Magazine. The following year, Sheryl was included in Fast Company Magazine’s League of Extraordinary Women, as one of the sixty notable members.
In 2012, Sheryl and Nicholas were featured in a PBS documentary that was based on their book Half the Sky. Along with other famous artists such as Diane Lane, Olivia Wilde, Eva Mendes and Meg Ryan, they visited ten countries in which they introduced the women who bravely stood up against the issues that women around the world are facing today.
Sheryl Wudunn Visits IUPUI
Sheryl was honored by the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis or IUPUI and was invited to speak last November 2012 about Social Entrepreneurship. The Pulitzer Awardee gave a talk on how poverty, illness, illiteracy, environmental destruction, human rights abuses, and corruption can be resolved if we all take part in reforming how we do business and change our mindset concerning women. She signed "Half the Sky" books after her presentation.
Currently, Sheryl is a senior managing director at Mid-Market Securities, LLC, which is a small investment company that helps raise capital for businessmen who engage in healthcare, media technology and social enterprise. She also actively participates in many of her philanthropic activities, and occasionally goes around the world to speak at various events pertaining to women’s rights and welfare.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Half the Sky Movement
- Afghan Institute of Learning
- Acumen Fund
- American Jewish World Service
- Apne Aap
- Edna Adan Maternity Hospital
- Every Mother Counts
- Fistula Foundation
- Futures Without Violence
- International Rescue Committee
- Jamii Bora
- New Light Foundation
- Opportunity International
- Pathfinder International
- Save the Children
- Shining Hope for Communities
- Population Council
- Room to Read
- Somaly Mam Foundation
- Umoja Women’s Village
- Women for Women International
- Women’s World Banking
- World Vision
Awards and Achievements
- 1990: Won the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism (along with her husband Nicholas Kristoff)
- 1990: Won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement
- 2011: Included in the 150 Women Who Shake the World by Newsweek
- Received the George Polk Award
- Received the White House Project EPIC Award
- Received the Overseas Press Club Award
- Received the Secretary’s Innovation Award for Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment
- Received the Asia Women in Business Corporate Leadership Award
- Received the Pearl S. Buck Woman of the Year Award
- Won the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize
- 2010: Honorary Degree from Middlebury College
- 2011: Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Pennsylvania